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Tabula Rasa Goes Free, Brings New Content 87

Posted by Soulskill
from the as-in-beer-with-lots-of-guns dept.
Last month we discussed NCSoft's announcement that Tabula Rasa would be closing its doors at the end of February, and their plans to remove the subscription fee for all players in January. Well, they've decided to go completely free a month early, alongside the release of a variety of new content. The game has finally gotten a first-person camera view, something many players have been asking for since launch. A new instance and several other bits of additional content are available as well. NCSoft also previewed player-controlled Mechs and PAUs, which will go live in the next major patch. Ten Ton Hammer has an interview with Net Devil's Scott Brown about the closure of Tabula Rasa.
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Tabula Rasa Goes Free, Brings New Content

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  • I LOOOVE when a company ends its services with a nice bonus. They could simply close all the servers thus saving money, instead they decide to pay the bills for an another month just for the sake of a nice ending.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kedjoran (812649)
      They're doing a fair bit more than that, they gave this as a parting gift to active TR players when they were announcing the closing: * 3 free months of City of Heroes including digital client * 3 free months of Lineage II including digital client * Aion beta access (coming soon) * Aion pre-order access (available in 2009) * 1 free month of Aion (including digital client, no physical goods, available in 2009)
      • Re:Nice ending (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @06:30AM (#26210081)
        Trying to upsell Tabula Rasa users on three other products is hardly a good-faith measure. It's an attempt to get a bit more money out of them, pure and simple.

        Frankly, were I a Tabula Rasa user I wouldn't touch this offer with a barge pole. They paid somewhere around $50 for a game, only to be used as its beta testers. Then to add insult to injury, they find that almost precisely one year after the release date (and perhaps only a matter of a few weeks or months after they shelled out their $50), the game would cease to work just three months after its first birthday.

        This is precisely why I don't buy games or applications that entirely rely on a central server hosted by the parent company for their survival.

        If NCsoft wanted to make a good faith measure to Tabula Rasa users, their parting gift to the community would be the ability to host the game on third party servers. They're not doing that though, they're taking the money and running - and insulting their users' intelligence with the suggestion that upsales are "gifts" when they're nothing more than a marketing campaign being run at a wholly distasteful moment.
        • An alternative (Score:5, Interesting)

          by KingSkippus (799657) * on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @09:27AM (#26210727) Homepage Journal

          If NCsoft wanted to make a good faith measure to Tabula Rasa users, their parting gift to the community would be the ability to host the game on third party servers.

          I kinda agree with you, but then I can also see why they wouldn't do this also. There are probably issues with IP and third-party licenses that keep them from distributing the server code.

          What I would like to see, though, is maybe something like a "dead MMOG clearinghouse" company. If I were such a company, for example, I would pay NCsoft $x for the rights to set up and run one or more Tabula Rasa servers so that players could continue playing. There would never be any more updates to the game, except maybe content updates to advance the storylines given the existing mechanics. (I.e. the stuff probably stored in text files.) I would charge some nominal fee to access the game, and the client would be given away for free.

          • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

            by WillDraven (760005)

            Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

          • that there is a pretty damn good idea. i wonder if you could get VC for a startup if you had some IP holders lined up
          • by Judinous (1093945)
            That already exists. It's called Sony Online Entertainment. You can get their "station pass" for slightly more than the standard subscription fee and have access to at least half a dozen MMOs and some other games as well. SOE is where MMOs go to die (or were killed in the first place).
          • Interesting idea but you're not talking about something as simple as renting out cartridges of Super Mario.

            Running an MMO server (or any server for that matter) requires maintenance, both to ensure the software keeps running and to provide whatever in-game support was necessary to keep the bulk of customers from gradually leaving a piece of dead software.

            Given how unlikely it is for short-sighted game publishers to invest in development of quality turn-key software I suspect that unless you hire the layed o

            • I spent my time and money resurrecting a game I worked on that was shut down: Meridian 59 [meridian59.com]. I worked with another of the original developers to form a small team that included 3 other people to maintain and try to expand the game. So, I have some perspective on this issue based on first-hand experience.

              Running an MMO server isn't easy. Even if you have a developer and team that put maintainability at the top of the list, your software will still have bugs. Any software developer knows that for any non-

          • by whoop (194)

            This is about how it is with the Everquest emulation servers. They take a single version of the game, as it was in about 2005, and then on the server end start adding content to the servers. All this, and most of them are free to play on.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Glimmerdark (1229958)
          it's not just an issue with 'upselling'. though certainly the company hopes to keep these people as customers, there's nothing dirty or underhanded about that- quite the opposite, i wish -more- companies put forth effort to reduce customer churn. TR is an MMO, the people who play this game really should understand that the majority of mmo's don't succeed long term, though i will admit TR went a bit quicker than most. generally, when this happens, you end up stuck. do not pass go, do not collect $200. Here,
        • by ikono (1180291)
          wait wait wait wait... Didn't you or someone else write this in an earlier story? Otherwise this is one hell of a deja vu
        • by mrjimorg (557309)
          What I would like is to be able to purchase the rights to their graphics, and information about their file formats. For novice MMO game writers like myself, graphics are the highest bar to entry.
        • Frankly, were I a Tabula Rasa user I wouldn't touch this offer with a barge pole. They paid somewhere around $50 for a game, only to be used as its beta testers. Then to add insult to injury, they find that almost precisely one year after the release date (and perhaps only a matter of a few weeks or months after they shelled out their $50), the game would cease to work just three months after its first birthday.

          1. As a former Tabula Rasa user, I can only say: that ideological point would maybe bother me, if

      • Those aren't gifts, they're fairly desperate attempts at getting you hooked on any other game in their lineup, in order to keep your revenue.

    • This is still a bad, bad move for NCSoft no matter how you slice it. When people buy MMOs they're looking for a game they can invest time into and perhaps come back to years later even if they set it down. That's the important part of an MMO, that your character persists in the long term, your friends list will still be around (and possibly the friends on it!), etc. I'm willing to bet it's not just me that has no inclination to try an NCSoft MMO after this precedent.
  • by n3tcat (664243) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @05:38AM (#26209863) Homepage

    If they plan on closing it down anyways, doesn't it make sense to open source it so people can run their own 3rd party servers?

    or am I missing something obvious here?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      It would make sense if Tabula Rasa was the whole issue. However, many of these companies will take bits and pieces of code from older projects and put them into newer ones (no point in reinventing the wheel). So, they would effectively be partially open sourcing other, money-making games/software (even if it is just a bit here or there), and that's something few companies are willing to do.

      Also, there's always the possibility of various licensing issues, keeping them from redistributing the code.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jibjibjib (889679)
      It might contain code they don't actually have the right to release (e.g code licensed from other companies.) Or it might contain code which they want to keep and use in future releases.
      • by gomiam (587421)
        AFAIK, only having source code from third-parties would be a technical deterrent. If they own all the code, they can licence the version used in Tabula Rasa and keep working on it. It's not like it hasn't been done before, anyway.
        • by Laibcoms (1443239)
          License to a FLOSS license? It will not happen. You are forgetting one important factor here: They are doing business. With business comes a huge investment and a huge income. You do not want your competitors to know your trade secrets, how you do things, etc. etc. Especially the new and/or aspiring players. If there companies who will open source their game codes, these will be the small companies. Mid to Big companies are not likely to do so. They do not need another competitor :p
          • by gomiam (587421)

            Mid to Big companies are not likely to do so. They do not need another competitor :p

            I guess Id Software (76 people work in it, according to their teamlist [idsoftware.com]) is a small company worried about competitors then ;)

            • by Laibcoms (1443239)
              They have 76? Ok then there's an overlap at the middle-sized gamedev companies. :p Thanks for the info ^_^
      • by aapold (753705)

        The sound effect of the shields in Tabula Rasa was almost 100% identical to the sound effect of the force field bubbles in City of Heroes/Villains.

        I assumed it was just borrowed from there.

        If this is typical of stuff used throughout... then open sourcing would be very difficult, you'd have to separate everything like that.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          If this is typical of stuff used throughout... then open sourcing would be very difficult, you'd have to separate everything like that.

          That's largely irrelevant, though - it's the game code we need open sourcing and in particular the server code. As long as the game *data* (i.e. the sounds etc.) is generally available we can still use it even if it doesn't get GPLed or whatever.

        • by BarryJacobsen (526926) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @09:52AM (#26210901) Homepage

          The sound effect of the shields in Tabula Rasa was almost 100% identical to the sound effect of the force field bubbles in City of Heroes/Villains.

          I assumed it was just borrowed from there.

          If this is typical of stuff used throughout... then open sourcing would be very difficult, you'd have to separate everything like that.

          It's fairly unlikely the server code makes heavy use of sound effects. :P

        • by JSBiff (87824)

          Why would you have to seperate it? I suppose if you licensed those sound clips from a third-party, then, yeah, you might have to. I might be wrong, but I believe that NCSoft pretty much owns CoH/V outright? (I'm not entirely sure - the game was developed by Cryptic, so it might be that Cryptic kept some rights to the assets and code, and NCSoft entered into another license to use some resources from Cryptic in TR).

          So, these are some of the considerations that have to go into Open Sourcing your products. If

    • That gives a huge leg up to potential competitors.... Something you don't want to do if you ever intend to reenter the market with another product.
      • Not only could it potentially give a leg up to a potential competitor, but from the perspective of a company like NCSoft, if you release the whole thing for free, and it starts to get popular once it's free, even though you couldn't make it a commercial success, you setup a potential competitor for your own future products. It's hard (though not impossible) to compete with free products. There's already enough competition, without creating more for yourself.

        Now, some might say that if it's free, that it doe

        • Its the time the players have to spend playing that you want to get the market share for. The money follows since they will have to pay to play, but if they want to play they will pay because its usually only $15 a month.

          I play MMOs about 1-2 hrs a night most nights, maybe 2-4 hrs on the weekend occasionally. I am probably a typical player in that regard. Some will play only occasionally, some will play very hardcore and be on it for 4-6 hrs a night. I am in the middle.

          Any company coming out with a new MMOR

    • by Aladrin (926209) on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @08:14AM (#26210415)

      To many, your idea sounds impossible. But Cyan did just this same thin recently with Uru (Myst Online). They have announced their intention to open source the product and are working hard right now to prepare the code.

      I see this as even more proof that Cyan cares about its customers. They have tried and tried and tried to make Uru a viable game, but have failed each time. I'm not sure why it can't make it, since Myst obviously can, but they did their best and they are continuing to support the fans.

      • by LingNoi (1066278)

        I'd reserve that judgement for when they actually release it. Right now they've done squat.

    • I'm guessing that the server code (or at least the core code) for Tabula Rasa might be very similar or based upon the server code for NCSoft's other MMOs; afterall, it would save them a lot of development costs to keep the server code as similar as possible between games. Then the concern for releasing that code would be that someone might figure out from there how to hack the server code for their other still active games.

    • by Laibcoms (1443239)

      If they plan on closing it down anyways, doesn't it make sense to open source it so people can run their own 3rd party servers?

      or am I missing something obvious here?

      Yep, you are missing it ;) Proprietary Code. These are the codes that were developed by NCsoft and which other companies want to get their hands on and study (and vice versa). To the end-users, it appears that "to achieve something" can be easily programmed from scratch. That isn't the case once you get down to the dirty work. There are bits and pieces and ways that one company did "some feature" and the other company did it differently for that SAME "some feature". In fact, it may appear the SAME "so

  • Seems a bit pointless really. As an RPG I assume that it is designed to have a long play-time (what with levels or other character development mechanisms).

    Why bother to invest time in such a game that'll be gone in a few months time?

    • Re:Why bother? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Psychochild (64124) <psychochild @ g m a i l.com> on Tuesday December 23, 2008 @06:22AM (#26210055) Homepage

      What's the point in playing any game? After reaching the end (or whenever they get tired of it), it's likely a lot of people won't play a single player game after that. Was it time/money wasted? Depends on if you enjoyed it or not. The enjoyment in an online game for some people isn't just having a max level character you can point to and brag about, but if you have fun. I'm playing the game and I'm having fun, even though I might not see the max level. YMMV, of course.

      It's a real shame, because I think Tabula Rasa is a fairly interesting game. I'm more of an RPGer than an FPSer, so I like the combat system what puts more emphasis on preparation and strategy rather than twitch action. I think TR's cardinal sin was that they didn't define what they were. They appeared to be an online FPS, but that's not what the game is; so RPGers tended to give it a pass and FPSers were disappointed once they got into it. It didn't help that the development went on way too long and cost too much money to ever hope to turn a profit. It's also kind of sad to see Richard Garriott's career fizzle out on yet one more in a string of mediocre games.

      • by saintm (142527)

        MMORPGs are a different kettle of fish to single player games though. Who really would want to invest time into building a character, when it's gonna be lost when the world ends in a couple of months time? The journey may be fun, but if you know that you'll never be able to finish it then it's not half as interesting.

        Could just be me of course :)

        • by Retric (704075)
          I played till 30 and then stopped. The game is fun but it becomes fairly repetitive over time so IMO it's worth checking out. For example multi kills in short time periods give more experience so chaining low level mobs is ideal but get's boring. You can solo dungeons and see some some really interesting an storyline even at fairly low levels.

          PS: Defending a base with other random people is also interesting. As you level you can start having more impact on the battlefield. At low levels your picking
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by _Sprocket_ (42527)

          That's an aspect of MMORPGs that I find interesting. Players will often dedicate the same amount of time they put towards any given hobby. But even though they're spending build-a-ship-in-a-bottle time to build up their character(s), they don't get the ship-in-the-bottle at the end. When the server plugs get pulled, everything is gone. Like it never existed. There's an almost tangible loss.

          The thing is, this isn't the first intangible hobby. People also dedicate considerable time (and money) to their

        • It's an MMORPG, of course you're never going to "finish" it! Whenever my friend tells me about what he's up to in WoW I always ask him if he'll have finished the game when he does that. It never gets old.
          • by _Sprocket_ (42527)

            Whenever my friend tells me about what he's up to in WoW I always ask him if he'll have finished the game when he does that. It never gets old.

            If you ask me that question, I'd respond with "I hope not." But I do realize there are people who just can't handle that idea. They're driven to "win" or finish the game. Yet the nature of this kind of game makes these things highly subjective if not outright impossible.

      • by Laibcoms (1443239)
        IMO the factors were: 1) Many people were expecting the "Richard Garriott" style of gameplay - no virtues on Tabula Rasa, just kill all the aliens! 2) It was RG's "test" game, he wants to try a new game genre. 3) They merged with NCsoft Korea, or rather, they were absorbed. Their concentration on the game got less and less because of NCsoft, their parent company. 4) And as you've said, RPG and/or FPS? 5) They relied heavily on Alpha Tester input, if you are not aware, the TR on the market right now was not
    • true, it is very action oriented tho and you can attack/defend control points nearly from the start.
      Also its likely the last chance to see this, in my opinion, great game.

  • .. but perhaps it should be made clear that the guy being interviewed has no knowledge at all of what happened to TR (nor does he claim this).
  • Tabula Rasa had some good basic ideas but felt like half a game. That was disappointing since there's still no decent sci-fi MMORPG out there. Anarchy Online and Star Wars Galaxies filled that niche for the first couple of years before they each lost their way and I was hoping TR would pick up that mantle.

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